Admit it: the title of this post makes you just a little scared to the read the rest, doesn't it?
Don't be nervous. Throwing grandma down the stairs is a metaphor. I would never advocate the use of the elderly as weapons or tripping objects. But it does refer to a bit of a film sequence that I'm to use as the kick-off of this post.
Who's seen SCARY MOVIE? Yes, the spoof of horror films starring the Wayans brothers and
that chick from "American Pie" that no one remembers anymore. In particular, I want to address this little scene from the film:
Once you get over the ridiculousness of the scene itself (and manage to pretend that Ghostface is the protagonist here), there's an important writing lesson to be found in it: writing a book is like throwing grandma down the stairs.
No, really. Think about the vase, the bicycle, grandma, and the piano as different aspects of a book's plot. Plot twists, if you will, or stumbling blocks. We're told to put our main character into a tree and start throwing rocks at them. Or in this illustration, toss things at them to slow them down so they don't achieve their goals too quickly. Because really, if the protagonist achieved what they wanted right away, the book would be about ten pages long.
We put things in the way of our characters getting what they want. In the case of Evy in THREE DAYS TO DEAD, some of her stumbling blocks on the stairs are her limited time to solve the mystery, being in a new and untrained body, having memory loss, and not knowing who to trust. She has to overcome all of these things as she fights her way toward the end of the book and the inevitable confrontation with the antagonist. In AS LIE THE DEAD, her biggest stumbling block is her own prejudice against nonhumans.
And the antagonist doesn't always have to be a physical being—even though it often is, especially in urban fantasy. The antagonist can also be mental, such as self-doubt, personal issues and instability. It can be a mystery to solve or a wrong to set right. But no matter what the antagonist the main character must face, it's how the author "throws grandma down the stairs" that helps keep me riveted and turning page after page.
by Kelly Meding
Thanks so much Kelly for stopping by!
ANOTHER KIND OF DEAD (Dreg City #3), August 2nd, 2011
WRONG SIDE OF DEAD (Dreg City #4), 2012
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